About time for another (quick) update on 2016 since the August update.
According to the RCP Average, Governor Chris Christie (17%; +1.2 pts since August) holds a 1/2 point lead over Senator Rand Paul (16.5%; +4.2 pts). Congressman Paul Ryan moves from 2nd to 3rd with 12.3% (-2.7 pts). Fellow Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are tied for 4th with 11.8% (+0.8 pts for Bush and +/- 0 for Rubio). Ted Cruz comes in with 11% (+3.7 pts) with Governors Walker and Jindal at 4.5% (+2.5 pts for Walker and +2 pts for Jindal). New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has been knocked off the RCP Average.
While the GOP side is still very fluid, the Democrats have remained very static. The RCP Average still has Hillary Clinton as the formidable leader (65.8%; +10.8 pts since August). Vice President Joe Biden is a whopping 55 points behind the former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady (a widening of 13 points since August). Elizabeth Warren jumps into third place with 6% (from essentially 0% in August). NY Governor Cuomo is at 3.3% (-0.7 pts), and MD Governor O’Malley and VA Senator Mark Warner both have 1% (no change for O’Malley and -0.3 pts for Warner).
Clinton (no change): Still trucking away. She continues to add to her list of supporters while also doing more public speaking. She can wait to the last minute to jump into the race, but could be vulnerable to a progressive candidate challenge. She’s also showing more vulnerability in hypothetical general election match-ups, however.
Warren (up 1 spot): Clinton does have some primary vulnerability if a well-financed, progressive candidate jumps in. That might be the now senior Senator from Massachusetts. However, Warren hasn’t signaled her interest in running (yet) and might not play well outside of well-educated Massachusetts.
Joe Biden (down 1 spot): He looks like he is running, but polling shows support for him in both the primary and the general election as extraordinarily soft. As the sitting VP, you can’t count him out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his stock continues to drop.
Cuomo (no change): If Hillary doesn’t run, expect the Governor of New York to at the very least consider it. Hailing from a massive state like New York automatically puts Cuomo in contention (again, without Clinton).
Schweitzer (re-entry): He has a very vocal distaste for Washington, D.C. (recently passing on an open Senate seat election). Nevertheless, he’s hinted at the possibility of a run. He has the sort of personality that would make a run with or without Clinton in the mix. While he’s not well-known and not from a big, rich state, his penchant for making outlandish comments could garner him significant attention rather quickly.
O’Malley (up 1 spot): While he’s likely to end up being the Democratic T-Paw, he has been relentless in his 2016 pursuit. If for no other reason than tenacity, O’Malley continues his long-haul upward.
Klobuchar (down 2 spots): Showing real no interest in running for the White House, the low-key senior Senator from Minnesota falls a bit. But if she wants to, she could reclaim her higher position.
Gillibrand (down 2 spots): Like her fellow Senator, the junior NY Senator hasn’t made an overt move to position herself. She’s unlikely to do so with Clinton still hanging over everyone’s heads. Hence, she continues to slip.
Warner (no change): He’ll cruise to his re-election next year; he has both executive experience and DC experience, but his moderate tone on many items might not be the best mix for a party clamoring to continue its progressive ways.
Hickenlooper (down 2 spots): Suddenly finding himself is a rather precarious position for re-election next year, Hickenlooper’s political future might not even allow him to make a run at it even if he wants to.
Christie (no change): Winning re-election by 22 points, taking over the RGA, and consistently beating or keeping Clinton within the margin of error in early polling all play very well into Christie’s 2016 ambitions. He has vulnerabilities and he isn’t the clear frontrunner at this point. But for the time being, he continues to lead the pack.
Paul (no change): Again, Senator Rand Paul is currently in the best position to challenge Christie. And he knows it – just look at the news. However, while Christie has his re-election behind him, Paul is going to need to figure out whether he wants to continue his Senate career or take a gamble on the White House.
Ryan (up 3 spots): If Paul Ryan wants it, he could quickly and effectively put together a campaign bringing in Establishment and conservative groups to his aid. The only question is whether he wants to be President or Speaker.
Walker (up 1 spot): Of all the Governors, Walker is probably best positioned to challenge Christie. He has serious conservative credentials, a solid record, and can tap into a national fundraising network built during his recall election. He has to win re-election, first, however, which gives Christie time to consolidate support.
Rubio (down 2 spots): He’s really taken a hit recently. While some of it is unwarranted (like his support of immigration reform), some of it is his waffling. He is trying to be something to everyone, which is problematic. He also needs to make a decision (Senate or White House).
Bush (down 2 spots): Reports suggest there is a 30% chance former FL Governor Jeb Bush might go for the house his brother and father once occupied. He’d be a strong contender (money, connections, and strong policy credentials), but 30% is a very low. While the Bush name isn’t as toxic as it was a few years ago, Bush may decide that the next White House-aiming Bush should come from the next generation (like his son, George P. Bush, who just filed his intent to run for Texas Land Commissioner).
Martinez (no change): She may no be gunning for the top spot, but she might be eying the #2 spot.
Perry (up 2 spots): Without the stress of running for re-election, Perry has been traveling quite a bit meeting people, learning things, and preparing. All in all, it looks like he’ll be much more prepared than 2012, but his time has likely passed.
Huckabee (no change): He’s a single-issue candidate, which served him well in 2008 (in Iowa especially), but many of the candidates above have strong or decent records on social issues and more and more the focus is the economy/fiscal issues, which doesn’t play well for the former Arkansas Governor and FoxNews personality.
Santorum (no change): He’ll go for it again, but will find himself is a much, much worse position than 2012.
Falling off the list is Huntsman. He won’t try again and for a lot of good reasons.